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Focusing on the Unique Mental Health Issues Affecting People of Color

Mental health matters. For people of color living in the United States, differences in education, housing, employment opportunities, family wealth, and even justice can all play a role in poor mental health. What’s more, people of color often face racially motivated violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their communities on an unequal level.

Despite those added challenges, people of color cope with mental health disorders at a similar rate to whites. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. However, nearly half of whites with a mental illness received services while only 30% of Blacks and 27% of Hispanics did. That’s why it’s essential to bring attention to mental health in these communities.

During the month of July, national recognition is given to the mental health of non-white communities in order to shine a light on these differences while encouraging local organizations and health care providers to educate people about mental health care, and to look past the stigma that often accompanies it.

Friends Talking

Mental Health Struggles are Universal

For both people of color and white people, problems with mental health are surprisingly common. In 2020, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness – that’s more than 50 million people. However, for both youth and adults, people of color are more likely to struggle with serious mental health problems, leading to some pretty striking statistics.

Children and Teens

  • In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for African Americans aged 15 to 24. It was the leading cause of death for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders 15 to 24.
  • From 1991 to 2019, self-reported suicide attempts rose nearly 80% among Black teens while there were no significant changes among other races and ethnicities.
  • In 2018, the suicide rate of Black children 5 to 12 was almost twice that of white children the same age.
  • Black and Hispanic children were 14% less likely than white youth to receive treatment for depression.
  • Over one-fourth of Black youth exposed to violence have proven to be at high risk for PTSD.


  • Nearly one in four individuals identifying as being two or more races are most likely to report having a mental health disorder in the past year, followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives at 22.7%
  • Black adults are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than other ethnicities.
  • Although depression rates are lower in Blacks and Hispanics than in whites, the depression is likely to be more debilitating and persistent.
  • In 2018 Asian Americans were 60% less likely and Hispanics 50% less likely to have received mental health treatment than non-Hispanic whites.

And while recognizing the need for help is the first step, finding affordable care options can be difficult. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “service cost or lack of insurance coverage was the most frequently cited reason for not using mental health services across all racial/ethnic groups.”

A fact sheet published by Resources to Recovery showed the stark differences in treatment among ethnicities and the results of those disparities for children, teens, and adults.

Support Group

Speaking Up

Sharing your problems with a stranger can be scary and is sometimes frowned upon in certain communities. There is often a stigma about “putting your business in the street,” despite the strict privacy rules between patients and medical professionals.

More than 80% of Black Americans are very concerned about the stigma associated with mental illness, which discourages them from seeking treatment. For some ethnicities, strict cultural traditions or misunderstandings may play a role in the lack of treatment of mental illness. Language differences between patients and providers are also a contributing factor. While these obstacles are frustrating, they should never stop you from caring for your health.

It takes all of us to help normalize mental health treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, or any other form of mental distress, it is critical to seek professional help. Parents can create a safe space for children to share and ask questions about what they’re feeling. Regardless of race or ethnicity, discussing and addressing mental health will empower to us live healthier, happier lives.

You Don’t Have to Suffer

AltaMed is committed to your mental, as well as physical well-being. Our experienced staff of diverse mental health professionals can provide culturally relevant care in your language. They can help you with everything from stress relief to referrals for more serious health or substance abuse issues. Call 855-425-1777 to learn more about our Behavioral Health Services.

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Mental Health

Tips for Staying Mentally Healthy Through Trying Times

People have been struggling to cope with some form of fear, grief, or anxiety for more than 20 months. Stress has become the “new normal.”

This time last year we were preparing to spend our holidays apart from loved ones as isolation was the practice during the first year of the pandemic. Now we have vaccines that have provided us greater freedom to gather. Still misinformation and political wrangling have kept us from putting COVID-19 in our rearview mirrors. It’s just something else to add to our stress and anxiety.

It’s important that we acknowledge our stress and deal with it in a healthy manor. Just like it’s important to get vaccinated and take precautions to put an end to the pandemic, it’s important to address any mental health concerns and change behaviors that may have sent you down a path toward depression.

Defining Mental Illness

The term mental illness is used to describe a broad range of conditions that vary from mild to moderate to severe. It is extremely common affecting one in five U.S. adults, in 2019. That is the most recent figure available. That figure is probably much higher now since the start of the pandemic.

Mental illness falls into two categories: any mental illness (AMI) and severe mental illness (SMI). AMI can literally be any mental condition that affects your mood, thinking, or behavior. They include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. SMIs are similar but they drastically affect a person’s ability to function normally.

Woman With Face Mask Thinking

Making Things Worse

The pandemic has only made mental health a bigger issue in the last 20 months. As creatures of habit, we were thrown for a loop as we lost the routine, dependability, and stability of our daily lives once the pandemic started.

The forced isolation, the onslaught of bad news, and the loss of jobs, income, and lives were almost like something out of a dystopian film. Stress became our new normal. Left untreated,
stress can cause:

  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of anger, fear, frustration, sadness, and worry
  • Physical reactions like headaches, body aches, stomach problems, and rashes
  • Worsening chronic health problems
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
The Therapist Takes Notes from the Patient

Acknowledge You Need Help

Far too many of us have been trained to ignore these feelings. We’re taught to fight through, keep your chin up, or just to get over it.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s important to acknowledge that you may need help to get over a mental health hurdle. That’s OK. Too many people don’t get treatment however because of the stigma around mental illness and treating it.

It can lead to discrimination at work, in school, or in social activities. Family, friends, and co-workers don’t fully understand what’s going on. You might start to think that you won’t succeed, or you begin to define yourself by your feelings. You should never let that stigma keep you from seeking treatment, however.

Worried Adult Couple Sitting on Sofa

Getting Past the Stigma

Stigma can be overcome. Just like you wouldn’t deal with a mental illness alone, you have resources to help you get past the stigma. They include:

  • Getting treatment. It’s only through treatment that you can identify what’s wrong and then find solutions for reducing the symptoms that are interfering with your life.
  • Not giving into shame. You are not weak. People often need help when dealing with mental health concerns. Connecting with others can help boost your self-esteem and get past destructive self-judgment.
  • Not isolating yourself. It’s important to reach out to people you trust. They might be hard to find at first, but there are caring and compassionate people who have been through similar struggles. They can offer you support if you confide in them.
  • Not identifying with your illness. You have an illness. You are NOT your illness. You may have bipolar disorder, or you may have schizophrenia. You are not bipolar, and you are not a schizophrenic.
  • Joining a support group. You can talk with a physician or counselor to find local programs or internet groups that can educate people about your condition. This offers support for you and helps to educate others.
  • Getting help at school. If your child is dealing with mental health issues it is illegal for the school NOT to accommodate them. Educators at every level, from elementary through college must make adjustments for children to the best of their abilities. Not doing so can lead to civil or criminal penalties.
  • Speaking out. Giving your voice to fighting the stigma against mental illness will boost your confidence and the confidence of others.

Help for the Mind and Body

It’s natural to feel worried, sadness, and loneliness from time to time. But if these feelings start to interfere with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about AltaMed’s Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Woman Voting With Sticker

5 Reasons Why You Should Vote!

NOTE: It’s so important to understand what you are voting about. AltaMed has guides with information about the propositions on the upcoming ballot here and here. Voting is already underway, so read up, take notes, and be sure to vote early.

This year’s election goes beyond who will be president. Your vote is your voice n issues affecting housing, education, employment and healthcare.

Help make a difference in your community during this general election and join us in “My Vote, My Health” initiative. Have you registered to vote?

Here are just a few reasons why you should get registered and vote:

1. Elections have consequences.

Kids Voting

You have the power to decide on the quality of life you want for yourself and future generations. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you care about like public transportation, raising minimum wage, or funding local schools. This is your life: take the time to help decide what’s best.

2. Not voting is giving up your voice.

Voters Exerting

Elections are decided by the people who go out and vote. Take some time and learn about the measures and the candidates. If you don’t vote, someone else will make the decision for you. Your power is in your vote.

3. It's your money.

Tax Time Note

You pay taxes, but do you know how that money is being used? Most people don’t. Voting is your chance to choose how your tax dollars are spent – such as funding for health care and social services.

4. Voting is an opportunity for change.

Ballot Paper

Do you want to make a positive impact? Voting gives you that chance! Support the candidates and ballot measures that can help your community, state, and even the nation for the greater good. Make your voice heard in these elections.

5. The community depends on you!

Kids Promoting Vote

Our communities are made up of friends, loved ones, neighbors, and children. Some may not know how important voting is, while others don’t have the privilege. Make the decision to vote for yourself and those around you.

Make sure your voice is heard – vote!

Focusing on the Unique Mental Health Issues Affecting People of Color